26/08/2022
To Do
Jelena Sofronijevic
Last Chance to See: Slaves of Fashion at Firstsite, Colchester
Make sure to visit this vibrant, urgent exhibition by the Singh Twins before it closes on 11th September

The Singh Twins are artists of plurality: the contemporary Indian miniatures for which they are best known invite as much comparison to pre-Raphaelite draughtsmanship as they do colonial engravings, or corporate branding. Using visual art as a means of storytelling, their work explores histories of empire and slavery and their subsequent impact on contemporary conflict and consumerism. Their sensitive exploration of these narratives, in which each detail is given consideration, places them solidly among Britain’s most eloquent contemporary artists.

Slaves of Fashion, the Singh Twins’ most recent exhibition, is no exception to their meticulous art practice: they have thought of everything. The exhibition focuses on the Indian textile industry, and the economic and cultural appropriation which caused its demise. Life-sized symbolic portraits-as-lightboxes dominate the exhibition, but peppering the spaces in between are a series of lustrously textured, gold-dusted paintings which are just as worthy of display. Accompanying these final artworks are a wealth of preparatory paintings and original source materials which document their own painstaking research and creative process.

Coromandel: Sugar and Spice, Not So Nice (2017)

From black and white engravings to vivid portraits, The Singh Twins colourise – and shade – oversimplified histories. Slaves of Fashion hints at the multi-directional cultural flows of art in empires. One of their sources is William Kilburn, an eighteenth-century textile designer. Though his own work was heavily appropriative of Indian chintz, he nevertheless presumed to lobby Parliament for protection against plagiarism of his floral patterns. 

Like the artworks themselves, the exhibition is dense, with extended captions reaching up to three pages per portrait. There are also short films, interviews, and poems penned in response to their works, (much of it warmly tributed to their former collaborator, University of Liverpool Professor Kate Marsh). Though the wealth of information can appear daunting, it improves accessibility and allows visitors to engage more thoroughly with their own histories.

Trade Wars (2017)

The Singh Twins’ artwork highlights continuities across time and geography; in Trade Wars (2017), the Elizabethan scramble for spices is likened with supermarket price wars., while Eating Off the Same Plate (2017) recasts a century cartoon of the Napoleonic Wars, criticising India’s elites for adapting the same neocolonial and corporate tactics which were also used to carve up Africa. There’s nothing subtle in their handling of contemporary politics. Small paintings offer scathing critiques of Theresa May, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, and George Bush alike. The devil is in the smallest details, such as the stars and stripes swapped for dollar signs in Partition Politics (2017), or the photographs of Iraqi bombings that border Partners in Crime (2005).

Partition Politics: Business as Usual (2007)

Whether Caribbean hardwood or Haitian sugar, Slaves of Fashion nods to other empires, highlighting inter-imperial networks, with repeated visual patterns representing recurring themes in colonial history. Coromandel (2017), a portrait of the Dutch East India Company in Pulicat, adopts the architectural map of the imperial fort as its border, while Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave floods the corner, a reference to the Company’s presence in Japan. 

Scales weigh up the ‘blue gold’ of indigo against Black enslaved people; both were traded in weight, emphasising dehumanising reduction of people to mere commodities to be bought and sold. Other works reverse racial stereotypes, highlighting the white pirates involved in calico textile trading. A Fitzgeraldian figure advertises how muslin was appropriated by wealthy women after the French Revolution, who risked the guillotine for wearing heavy, indulgent fabrics. The work also alludes to the trend adopted by white European women of wearing flesh-toned underwear beneath their transparent dresses, deliberarately suggestive of India’s hot, sexual atmosphere.

Muslin: The Fabric of Revolt (2017)

The Singh Twins prioritise representing people otherwise omitted from elite historical narratives. Portraits nod to the shawl-clad poor of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and labour exploitation in Manchester’s textile mills. These images bring the empire home to its source, and encourage us to think creatively about how violence here is part of wider systems of oppression worldwide. There’s reconciliation to be found in these complex truths; for instance, ‘unpatriotic’ British women risked physical attack, or being stripped at point, for wearing calico. By showing the popularity of Indian and imperial goods, the Twins suggest that responsibility lies more with political and economic elites, rather than the British public.

Symbols associated with Ancient Egypt and China show India’s international connections both before and beyond Britain. Whilst exploring these shared connections, the Twins’ Indo-British histories naturally put India first. With an underdeveloped textile industry that was characterised by cheap and low quality mass production, we are shown that it was Britain who was dependent on trade within the empire and its colonies rather than vice versa. 

The Singh Twins remind us that Britain did all it could to suppress India’s economic self-determination; under British rule popular muslins and Kashmiri shawls were banned or imitated, and chintz was seized at customs as the British government enforced imports to smother India’s flourishing textile industry. In one piece, a single bleeding finger commemorates those hundreds of Bengali weavers violently punished during this period.

Preparatory painting of a ‘Calico Madam’ being beaten by a silk weaver (2017)

The abundance of quotes spread throughout the exhibition, sourced from philosophers to political reports, highlight how these horrors were well-known and challenged at the time. Among the most harrowing of works on view is the triptych depicting the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an ironic use of religious art to highlight the most ungodly violence. In the accompanying documentary, the Twins debate the ethics and exploitative potential of using the original photographs of Sikhs flogged in the streets during the massacre. They ultimately conclude such material, while deeply disturbing, is a useful and necessary source to expose the impunity of General Dyer’s so-called ‘Dyerarchy’. 

As students at Liverpool University, the Twins were subject to the prejudices of a myopically Western arts education, with tutors often denying the influence of non-European art on Western works, or claiming that Indian art was ‘backward and outdated’. Slaves of Fashion explodes the narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art history. With their art now adorning everything from album covers to academic literature - as well as being the subject of an excellent solo exhibition - the Twins’ stunning and vivid works are themselves the strongest evidence against these outdated stereotypes.

The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion is on view at Firstsite Colchester until 11 September 2022.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/08/2022
To Do
Jelena Sofronijevic
Last Chance to See: Slaves of Fashion at Firstsite, Colchester
Make sure to visit this vibrant, urgent exhibition by the Singh Twins before it closes on 11th September

The Singh Twins are artists of plurality: the contemporary Indian miniatures for which they are best known invite as much comparison to pre-Raphaelite draughtsmanship as they do colonial engravings, or corporate branding. Using visual art as a means of storytelling, their work explores histories of empire and slavery and their subsequent impact on contemporary conflict and consumerism. Their sensitive exploration of these narratives, in which each detail is given consideration, places them solidly among Britain’s most eloquent contemporary artists.

Slaves of Fashion, the Singh Twins’ most recent exhibition, is no exception to their meticulous art practice: they have thought of everything. The exhibition focuses on the Indian textile industry, and the economic and cultural appropriation which caused its demise. Life-sized symbolic portraits-as-lightboxes dominate the exhibition, but peppering the spaces in between are a series of lustrously textured, gold-dusted paintings which are just as worthy of display. Accompanying these final artworks are a wealth of preparatory paintings and original source materials which document their own painstaking research and creative process.

Coromandel: Sugar and Spice, Not So Nice (2017)

From black and white engravings to vivid portraits, The Singh Twins colourise – and shade – oversimplified histories. Slaves of Fashion hints at the multi-directional cultural flows of art in empires. One of their sources is William Kilburn, an eighteenth-century textile designer. Though his own work was heavily appropriative of Indian chintz, he nevertheless presumed to lobby Parliament for protection against plagiarism of his floral patterns. 

Like the artworks themselves, the exhibition is dense, with extended captions reaching up to three pages per portrait. There are also short films, interviews, and poems penned in response to their works, (much of it warmly tributed to their former collaborator, University of Liverpool Professor Kate Marsh). Though the wealth of information can appear daunting, it improves accessibility and allows visitors to engage more thoroughly with their own histories.

Trade Wars (2017)

The Singh Twins’ artwork highlights continuities across time and geography; in Trade Wars (2017), the Elizabethan scramble for spices is likened with supermarket price wars., while Eating Off the Same Plate (2017) recasts a century cartoon of the Napoleonic Wars, criticising India’s elites for adapting the same neocolonial and corporate tactics which were also used to carve up Africa. There’s nothing subtle in their handling of contemporary politics. Small paintings offer scathing critiques of Theresa May, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, and George Bush alike. The devil is in the smallest details, such as the stars and stripes swapped for dollar signs in Partition Politics (2017), or the photographs of Iraqi bombings that border Partners in Crime (2005).

Partition Politics: Business as Usual (2007)

Whether Caribbean hardwood or Haitian sugar, Slaves of Fashion nods to other empires, highlighting inter-imperial networks, with repeated visual patterns representing recurring themes in colonial history. Coromandel (2017), a portrait of the Dutch East India Company in Pulicat, adopts the architectural map of the imperial fort as its border, while Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave floods the corner, a reference to the Company’s presence in Japan. 

Scales weigh up the ‘blue gold’ of indigo against Black enslaved people; both were traded in weight, emphasising dehumanising reduction of people to mere commodities to be bought and sold. Other works reverse racial stereotypes, highlighting the white pirates involved in calico textile trading. A Fitzgeraldian figure advertises how muslin was appropriated by wealthy women after the French Revolution, who risked the guillotine for wearing heavy, indulgent fabrics. The work also alludes to the trend adopted by white European women of wearing flesh-toned underwear beneath their transparent dresses, deliberarately suggestive of India’s hot, sexual atmosphere.

Muslin: The Fabric of Revolt (2017)

The Singh Twins prioritise representing people otherwise omitted from elite historical narratives. Portraits nod to the shawl-clad poor of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and labour exploitation in Manchester’s textile mills. These images bring the empire home to its source, and encourage us to think creatively about how violence here is part of wider systems of oppression worldwide. There’s reconciliation to be found in these complex truths; for instance, ‘unpatriotic’ British women risked physical attack, or being stripped at point, for wearing calico. By showing the popularity of Indian and imperial goods, the Twins suggest that responsibility lies more with political and economic elites, rather than the British public.

Symbols associated with Ancient Egypt and China show India’s international connections both before and beyond Britain. Whilst exploring these shared connections, the Twins’ Indo-British histories naturally put India first. With an underdeveloped textile industry that was characterised by cheap and low quality mass production, we are shown that it was Britain who was dependent on trade within the empire and its colonies rather than vice versa. 

The Singh Twins remind us that Britain did all it could to suppress India’s economic self-determination; under British rule popular muslins and Kashmiri shawls were banned or imitated, and chintz was seized at customs as the British government enforced imports to smother India’s flourishing textile industry. In one piece, a single bleeding finger commemorates those hundreds of Bengali weavers violently punished during this period.

Preparatory painting of a ‘Calico Madam’ being beaten by a silk weaver (2017)

The abundance of quotes spread throughout the exhibition, sourced from philosophers to political reports, highlight how these horrors were well-known and challenged at the time. Among the most harrowing of works on view is the triptych depicting the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an ironic use of religious art to highlight the most ungodly violence. In the accompanying documentary, the Twins debate the ethics and exploitative potential of using the original photographs of Sikhs flogged in the streets during the massacre. They ultimately conclude such material, while deeply disturbing, is a useful and necessary source to expose the impunity of General Dyer’s so-called ‘Dyerarchy’. 

As students at Liverpool University, the Twins were subject to the prejudices of a myopically Western arts education, with tutors often denying the influence of non-European art on Western works, or claiming that Indian art was ‘backward and outdated’. Slaves of Fashion explodes the narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art history. With their art now adorning everything from album covers to academic literature - as well as being the subject of an excellent solo exhibition - the Twins’ stunning and vivid works are themselves the strongest evidence against these outdated stereotypes.

The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion is on view at Firstsite Colchester until 11 September 2022.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/08/2022
To Do
Jelena Sofronijevic
Last Chance to See: Slaves of Fashion at Firstsite, Colchester
Make sure to visit this vibrant, urgent exhibition by the Singh Twins before it closes on 11th September

The Singh Twins are artists of plurality: the contemporary Indian miniatures for which they are best known invite as much comparison to pre-Raphaelite draughtsmanship as they do colonial engravings, or corporate branding. Using visual art as a means of storytelling, their work explores histories of empire and slavery and their subsequent impact on contemporary conflict and consumerism. Their sensitive exploration of these narratives, in which each detail is given consideration, places them solidly among Britain’s most eloquent contemporary artists.

Slaves of Fashion, the Singh Twins’ most recent exhibition, is no exception to their meticulous art practice: they have thought of everything. The exhibition focuses on the Indian textile industry, and the economic and cultural appropriation which caused its demise. Life-sized symbolic portraits-as-lightboxes dominate the exhibition, but peppering the spaces in between are a series of lustrously textured, gold-dusted paintings which are just as worthy of display. Accompanying these final artworks are a wealth of preparatory paintings and original source materials which document their own painstaking research and creative process.

Coromandel: Sugar and Spice, Not So Nice (2017)

From black and white engravings to vivid portraits, The Singh Twins colourise – and shade – oversimplified histories. Slaves of Fashion hints at the multi-directional cultural flows of art in empires. One of their sources is William Kilburn, an eighteenth-century textile designer. Though his own work was heavily appropriative of Indian chintz, he nevertheless presumed to lobby Parliament for protection against plagiarism of his floral patterns. 

Like the artworks themselves, the exhibition is dense, with extended captions reaching up to three pages per portrait. There are also short films, interviews, and poems penned in response to their works, (much of it warmly tributed to their former collaborator, University of Liverpool Professor Kate Marsh). Though the wealth of information can appear daunting, it improves accessibility and allows visitors to engage more thoroughly with their own histories.

Trade Wars (2017)

The Singh Twins’ artwork highlights continuities across time and geography; in Trade Wars (2017), the Elizabethan scramble for spices is likened with supermarket price wars., while Eating Off the Same Plate (2017) recasts a century cartoon of the Napoleonic Wars, criticising India’s elites for adapting the same neocolonial and corporate tactics which were also used to carve up Africa. There’s nothing subtle in their handling of contemporary politics. Small paintings offer scathing critiques of Theresa May, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, and George Bush alike. The devil is in the smallest details, such as the stars and stripes swapped for dollar signs in Partition Politics (2017), or the photographs of Iraqi bombings that border Partners in Crime (2005).

Partition Politics: Business as Usual (2007)

Whether Caribbean hardwood or Haitian sugar, Slaves of Fashion nods to other empires, highlighting inter-imperial networks, with repeated visual patterns representing recurring themes in colonial history. Coromandel (2017), a portrait of the Dutch East India Company in Pulicat, adopts the architectural map of the imperial fort as its border, while Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave floods the corner, a reference to the Company’s presence in Japan. 

Scales weigh up the ‘blue gold’ of indigo against Black enslaved people; both were traded in weight, emphasising dehumanising reduction of people to mere commodities to be bought and sold. Other works reverse racial stereotypes, highlighting the white pirates involved in calico textile trading. A Fitzgeraldian figure advertises how muslin was appropriated by wealthy women after the French Revolution, who risked the guillotine for wearing heavy, indulgent fabrics. The work also alludes to the trend adopted by white European women of wearing flesh-toned underwear beneath their transparent dresses, deliberarately suggestive of India’s hot, sexual atmosphere.

Muslin: The Fabric of Revolt (2017)

The Singh Twins prioritise representing people otherwise omitted from elite historical narratives. Portraits nod to the shawl-clad poor of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and labour exploitation in Manchester’s textile mills. These images bring the empire home to its source, and encourage us to think creatively about how violence here is part of wider systems of oppression worldwide. There’s reconciliation to be found in these complex truths; for instance, ‘unpatriotic’ British women risked physical attack, or being stripped at point, for wearing calico. By showing the popularity of Indian and imperial goods, the Twins suggest that responsibility lies more with political and economic elites, rather than the British public.

Symbols associated with Ancient Egypt and China show India’s international connections both before and beyond Britain. Whilst exploring these shared connections, the Twins’ Indo-British histories naturally put India first. With an underdeveloped textile industry that was characterised by cheap and low quality mass production, we are shown that it was Britain who was dependent on trade within the empire and its colonies rather than vice versa. 

The Singh Twins remind us that Britain did all it could to suppress India’s economic self-determination; under British rule popular muslins and Kashmiri shawls were banned or imitated, and chintz was seized at customs as the British government enforced imports to smother India’s flourishing textile industry. In one piece, a single bleeding finger commemorates those hundreds of Bengali weavers violently punished during this period.

Preparatory painting of a ‘Calico Madam’ being beaten by a silk weaver (2017)

The abundance of quotes spread throughout the exhibition, sourced from philosophers to political reports, highlight how these horrors were well-known and challenged at the time. Among the most harrowing of works on view is the triptych depicting the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an ironic use of religious art to highlight the most ungodly violence. In the accompanying documentary, the Twins debate the ethics and exploitative potential of using the original photographs of Sikhs flogged in the streets during the massacre. They ultimately conclude such material, while deeply disturbing, is a useful and necessary source to expose the impunity of General Dyer’s so-called ‘Dyerarchy’. 

As students at Liverpool University, the Twins were subject to the prejudices of a myopically Western arts education, with tutors often denying the influence of non-European art on Western works, or claiming that Indian art was ‘backward and outdated’. Slaves of Fashion explodes the narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art history. With their art now adorning everything from album covers to academic literature - as well as being the subject of an excellent solo exhibition - the Twins’ stunning and vivid works are themselves the strongest evidence against these outdated stereotypes.

The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion is on view at Firstsite Colchester until 11 September 2022.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/08/2022
To Do
Jelena Sofronijevic
Last Chance to See: Slaves of Fashion at Firstsite, Colchester
Make sure to visit this vibrant, urgent exhibition by the Singh Twins before it closes on 11th September

The Singh Twins are artists of plurality: the contemporary Indian miniatures for which they are best known invite as much comparison to pre-Raphaelite draughtsmanship as they do colonial engravings, or corporate branding. Using visual art as a means of storytelling, their work explores histories of empire and slavery and their subsequent impact on contemporary conflict and consumerism. Their sensitive exploration of these narratives, in which each detail is given consideration, places them solidly among Britain’s most eloquent contemporary artists.

Slaves of Fashion, the Singh Twins’ most recent exhibition, is no exception to their meticulous art practice: they have thought of everything. The exhibition focuses on the Indian textile industry, and the economic and cultural appropriation which caused its demise. Life-sized symbolic portraits-as-lightboxes dominate the exhibition, but peppering the spaces in between are a series of lustrously textured, gold-dusted paintings which are just as worthy of display. Accompanying these final artworks are a wealth of preparatory paintings and original source materials which document their own painstaking research and creative process.

Coromandel: Sugar and Spice, Not So Nice (2017)

From black and white engravings to vivid portraits, The Singh Twins colourise – and shade – oversimplified histories. Slaves of Fashion hints at the multi-directional cultural flows of art in empires. One of their sources is William Kilburn, an eighteenth-century textile designer. Though his own work was heavily appropriative of Indian chintz, he nevertheless presumed to lobby Parliament for protection against plagiarism of his floral patterns. 

Like the artworks themselves, the exhibition is dense, with extended captions reaching up to three pages per portrait. There are also short films, interviews, and poems penned in response to their works, (much of it warmly tributed to their former collaborator, University of Liverpool Professor Kate Marsh). Though the wealth of information can appear daunting, it improves accessibility and allows visitors to engage more thoroughly with their own histories.

Trade Wars (2017)

The Singh Twins’ artwork highlights continuities across time and geography; in Trade Wars (2017), the Elizabethan scramble for spices is likened with supermarket price wars., while Eating Off the Same Plate (2017) recasts a century cartoon of the Napoleonic Wars, criticising India’s elites for adapting the same neocolonial and corporate tactics which were also used to carve up Africa. There’s nothing subtle in their handling of contemporary politics. Small paintings offer scathing critiques of Theresa May, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, and George Bush alike. The devil is in the smallest details, such as the stars and stripes swapped for dollar signs in Partition Politics (2017), or the photographs of Iraqi bombings that border Partners in Crime (2005).

Partition Politics: Business as Usual (2007)

Whether Caribbean hardwood or Haitian sugar, Slaves of Fashion nods to other empires, highlighting inter-imperial networks, with repeated visual patterns representing recurring themes in colonial history. Coromandel (2017), a portrait of the Dutch East India Company in Pulicat, adopts the architectural map of the imperial fort as its border, while Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave floods the corner, a reference to the Company’s presence in Japan. 

Scales weigh up the ‘blue gold’ of indigo against Black enslaved people; both were traded in weight, emphasising dehumanising reduction of people to mere commodities to be bought and sold. Other works reverse racial stereotypes, highlighting the white pirates involved in calico textile trading. A Fitzgeraldian figure advertises how muslin was appropriated by wealthy women after the French Revolution, who risked the guillotine for wearing heavy, indulgent fabrics. The work also alludes to the trend adopted by white European women of wearing flesh-toned underwear beneath their transparent dresses, deliberarately suggestive of India’s hot, sexual atmosphere.

Muslin: The Fabric of Revolt (2017)

The Singh Twins prioritise representing people otherwise omitted from elite historical narratives. Portraits nod to the shawl-clad poor of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and labour exploitation in Manchester’s textile mills. These images bring the empire home to its source, and encourage us to think creatively about how violence here is part of wider systems of oppression worldwide. There’s reconciliation to be found in these complex truths; for instance, ‘unpatriotic’ British women risked physical attack, or being stripped at point, for wearing calico. By showing the popularity of Indian and imperial goods, the Twins suggest that responsibility lies more with political and economic elites, rather than the British public.

Symbols associated with Ancient Egypt and China show India’s international connections both before and beyond Britain. Whilst exploring these shared connections, the Twins’ Indo-British histories naturally put India first. With an underdeveloped textile industry that was characterised by cheap and low quality mass production, we are shown that it was Britain who was dependent on trade within the empire and its colonies rather than vice versa. 

The Singh Twins remind us that Britain did all it could to suppress India’s economic self-determination; under British rule popular muslins and Kashmiri shawls were banned or imitated, and chintz was seized at customs as the British government enforced imports to smother India’s flourishing textile industry. In one piece, a single bleeding finger commemorates those hundreds of Bengali weavers violently punished during this period.

Preparatory painting of a ‘Calico Madam’ being beaten by a silk weaver (2017)

The abundance of quotes spread throughout the exhibition, sourced from philosophers to political reports, highlight how these horrors were well-known and challenged at the time. Among the most harrowing of works on view is the triptych depicting the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an ironic use of religious art to highlight the most ungodly violence. In the accompanying documentary, the Twins debate the ethics and exploitative potential of using the original photographs of Sikhs flogged in the streets during the massacre. They ultimately conclude such material, while deeply disturbing, is a useful and necessary source to expose the impunity of General Dyer’s so-called ‘Dyerarchy’. 

As students at Liverpool University, the Twins were subject to the prejudices of a myopically Western arts education, with tutors often denying the influence of non-European art on Western works, or claiming that Indian art was ‘backward and outdated’. Slaves of Fashion explodes the narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art history. With their art now adorning everything from album covers to academic literature - as well as being the subject of an excellent solo exhibition - the Twins’ stunning and vivid works are themselves the strongest evidence against these outdated stereotypes.

The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion is on view at Firstsite Colchester until 11 September 2022.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/08/2022
To Do
Jelena Sofronijevic
Last Chance to See: Slaves of Fashion at Firstsite, Colchester
Make sure to visit this vibrant, urgent exhibition by the Singh Twins before it closes on 11th September

The Singh Twins are artists of plurality: the contemporary Indian miniatures for which they are best known invite as much comparison to pre-Raphaelite draughtsmanship as they do colonial engravings, or corporate branding. Using visual art as a means of storytelling, their work explores histories of empire and slavery and their subsequent impact on contemporary conflict and consumerism. Their sensitive exploration of these narratives, in which each detail is given consideration, places them solidly among Britain’s most eloquent contemporary artists.

Slaves of Fashion, the Singh Twins’ most recent exhibition, is no exception to their meticulous art practice: they have thought of everything. The exhibition focuses on the Indian textile industry, and the economic and cultural appropriation which caused its demise. Life-sized symbolic portraits-as-lightboxes dominate the exhibition, but peppering the spaces in between are a series of lustrously textured, gold-dusted paintings which are just as worthy of display. Accompanying these final artworks are a wealth of preparatory paintings and original source materials which document their own painstaking research and creative process.

Coromandel: Sugar and Spice, Not So Nice (2017)

From black and white engravings to vivid portraits, The Singh Twins colourise – and shade – oversimplified histories. Slaves of Fashion hints at the multi-directional cultural flows of art in empires. One of their sources is William Kilburn, an eighteenth-century textile designer. Though his own work was heavily appropriative of Indian chintz, he nevertheless presumed to lobby Parliament for protection against plagiarism of his floral patterns. 

Like the artworks themselves, the exhibition is dense, with extended captions reaching up to three pages per portrait. There are also short films, interviews, and poems penned in response to their works, (much of it warmly tributed to their former collaborator, University of Liverpool Professor Kate Marsh). Though the wealth of information can appear daunting, it improves accessibility and allows visitors to engage more thoroughly with their own histories.

Trade Wars (2017)

The Singh Twins’ artwork highlights continuities across time and geography; in Trade Wars (2017), the Elizabethan scramble for spices is likened with supermarket price wars., while Eating Off the Same Plate (2017) recasts a century cartoon of the Napoleonic Wars, criticising India’s elites for adapting the same neocolonial and corporate tactics which were also used to carve up Africa. There’s nothing subtle in their handling of contemporary politics. Small paintings offer scathing critiques of Theresa May, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, and George Bush alike. The devil is in the smallest details, such as the stars and stripes swapped for dollar signs in Partition Politics (2017), or the photographs of Iraqi bombings that border Partners in Crime (2005).

Partition Politics: Business as Usual (2007)

Whether Caribbean hardwood or Haitian sugar, Slaves of Fashion nods to other empires, highlighting inter-imperial networks, with repeated visual patterns representing recurring themes in colonial history. Coromandel (2017), a portrait of the Dutch East India Company in Pulicat, adopts the architectural map of the imperial fort as its border, while Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave floods the corner, a reference to the Company’s presence in Japan. 

Scales weigh up the ‘blue gold’ of indigo against Black enslaved people; both were traded in weight, emphasising dehumanising reduction of people to mere commodities to be bought and sold. Other works reverse racial stereotypes, highlighting the white pirates involved in calico textile trading. A Fitzgeraldian figure advertises how muslin was appropriated by wealthy women after the French Revolution, who risked the guillotine for wearing heavy, indulgent fabrics. The work also alludes to the trend adopted by white European women of wearing flesh-toned underwear beneath their transparent dresses, deliberarately suggestive of India’s hot, sexual atmosphere.

Muslin: The Fabric of Revolt (2017)

The Singh Twins prioritise representing people otherwise omitted from elite historical narratives. Portraits nod to the shawl-clad poor of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and labour exploitation in Manchester’s textile mills. These images bring the empire home to its source, and encourage us to think creatively about how violence here is part of wider systems of oppression worldwide. There’s reconciliation to be found in these complex truths; for instance, ‘unpatriotic’ British women risked physical attack, or being stripped at point, for wearing calico. By showing the popularity of Indian and imperial goods, the Twins suggest that responsibility lies more with political and economic elites, rather than the British public.

Symbols associated with Ancient Egypt and China show India’s international connections both before and beyond Britain. Whilst exploring these shared connections, the Twins’ Indo-British histories naturally put India first. With an underdeveloped textile industry that was characterised by cheap and low quality mass production, we are shown that it was Britain who was dependent on trade within the empire and its colonies rather than vice versa. 

The Singh Twins remind us that Britain did all it could to suppress India’s economic self-determination; under British rule popular muslins and Kashmiri shawls were banned or imitated, and chintz was seized at customs as the British government enforced imports to smother India’s flourishing textile industry. In one piece, a single bleeding finger commemorates those hundreds of Bengali weavers violently punished during this period.

Preparatory painting of a ‘Calico Madam’ being beaten by a silk weaver (2017)

The abundance of quotes spread throughout the exhibition, sourced from philosophers to political reports, highlight how these horrors were well-known and challenged at the time. Among the most harrowing of works on view is the triptych depicting the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an ironic use of religious art to highlight the most ungodly violence. In the accompanying documentary, the Twins debate the ethics and exploitative potential of using the original photographs of Sikhs flogged in the streets during the massacre. They ultimately conclude such material, while deeply disturbing, is a useful and necessary source to expose the impunity of General Dyer’s so-called ‘Dyerarchy’. 

As students at Liverpool University, the Twins were subject to the prejudices of a myopically Western arts education, with tutors often denying the influence of non-European art on Western works, or claiming that Indian art was ‘backward and outdated’. Slaves of Fashion explodes the narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art history. With their art now adorning everything from album covers to academic literature - as well as being the subject of an excellent solo exhibition - the Twins’ stunning and vivid works are themselves the strongest evidence against these outdated stereotypes.

The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion is on view at Firstsite Colchester until 11 September 2022.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/08/2022
To Do
Jelena Sofronijevic
Last Chance to See: Slaves of Fashion at Firstsite, Colchester

The Singh Twins are artists of plurality: the contemporary Indian miniatures for which they are best known invite as much comparison to pre-Raphaelite draughtsmanship as they do colonial engravings, or corporate branding. Using visual art as a means of storytelling, their work explores histories of empire and slavery and their subsequent impact on contemporary conflict and consumerism. Their sensitive exploration of these narratives, in which each detail is given consideration, places them solidly among Britain’s most eloquent contemporary artists.

Slaves of Fashion, the Singh Twins’ most recent exhibition, is no exception to their meticulous art practice: they have thought of everything. The exhibition focuses on the Indian textile industry, and the economic and cultural appropriation which caused its demise. Life-sized symbolic portraits-as-lightboxes dominate the exhibition, but peppering the spaces in between are a series of lustrously textured, gold-dusted paintings which are just as worthy of display. Accompanying these final artworks are a wealth of preparatory paintings and original source materials which document their own painstaking research and creative process.

Coromandel: Sugar and Spice, Not So Nice (2017)

From black and white engravings to vivid portraits, The Singh Twins colourise – and shade – oversimplified histories. Slaves of Fashion hints at the multi-directional cultural flows of art in empires. One of their sources is William Kilburn, an eighteenth-century textile designer. Though his own work was heavily appropriative of Indian chintz, he nevertheless presumed to lobby Parliament for protection against plagiarism of his floral patterns. 

Like the artworks themselves, the exhibition is dense, with extended captions reaching up to three pages per portrait. There are also short films, interviews, and poems penned in response to their works, (much of it warmly tributed to their former collaborator, University of Liverpool Professor Kate Marsh). Though the wealth of information can appear daunting, it improves accessibility and allows visitors to engage more thoroughly with their own histories.

Trade Wars (2017)

The Singh Twins’ artwork highlights continuities across time and geography; in Trade Wars (2017), the Elizabethan scramble for spices is likened with supermarket price wars., while Eating Off the Same Plate (2017) recasts a century cartoon of the Napoleonic Wars, criticising India’s elites for adapting the same neocolonial and corporate tactics which were also used to carve up Africa. There’s nothing subtle in their handling of contemporary politics. Small paintings offer scathing critiques of Theresa May, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, and George Bush alike. The devil is in the smallest details, such as the stars and stripes swapped for dollar signs in Partition Politics (2017), or the photographs of Iraqi bombings that border Partners in Crime (2005).

Partition Politics: Business as Usual (2007)

Whether Caribbean hardwood or Haitian sugar, Slaves of Fashion nods to other empires, highlighting inter-imperial networks, with repeated visual patterns representing recurring themes in colonial history. Coromandel (2017), a portrait of the Dutch East India Company in Pulicat, adopts the architectural map of the imperial fort as its border, while Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave floods the corner, a reference to the Company’s presence in Japan. 

Scales weigh up the ‘blue gold’ of indigo against Black enslaved people; both were traded in weight, emphasising dehumanising reduction of people to mere commodities to be bought and sold. Other works reverse racial stereotypes, highlighting the white pirates involved in calico textile trading. A Fitzgeraldian figure advertises how muslin was appropriated by wealthy women after the French Revolution, who risked the guillotine for wearing heavy, indulgent fabrics. The work also alludes to the trend adopted by white European women of wearing flesh-toned underwear beneath their transparent dresses, deliberarately suggestive of India’s hot, sexual atmosphere.

Muslin: The Fabric of Revolt (2017)

The Singh Twins prioritise representing people otherwise omitted from elite historical narratives. Portraits nod to the shawl-clad poor of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and labour exploitation in Manchester’s textile mills. These images bring the empire home to its source, and encourage us to think creatively about how violence here is part of wider systems of oppression worldwide. There’s reconciliation to be found in these complex truths; for instance, ‘unpatriotic’ British women risked physical attack, or being stripped at point, for wearing calico. By showing the popularity of Indian and imperial goods, the Twins suggest that responsibility lies more with political and economic elites, rather than the British public.

Symbols associated with Ancient Egypt and China show India’s international connections both before and beyond Britain. Whilst exploring these shared connections, the Twins’ Indo-British histories naturally put India first. With an underdeveloped textile industry that was characterised by cheap and low quality mass production, we are shown that it was Britain who was dependent on trade within the empire and its colonies rather than vice versa. 

The Singh Twins remind us that Britain did all it could to suppress India’s economic self-determination; under British rule popular muslins and Kashmiri shawls were banned or imitated, and chintz was seized at customs as the British government enforced imports to smother India’s flourishing textile industry. In one piece, a single bleeding finger commemorates those hundreds of Bengali weavers violently punished during this period.

Preparatory painting of a ‘Calico Madam’ being beaten by a silk weaver (2017)

The abundance of quotes spread throughout the exhibition, sourced from philosophers to political reports, highlight how these horrors were well-known and challenged at the time. Among the most harrowing of works on view is the triptych depicting the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an ironic use of religious art to highlight the most ungodly violence. In the accompanying documentary, the Twins debate the ethics and exploitative potential of using the original photographs of Sikhs flogged in the streets during the massacre. They ultimately conclude such material, while deeply disturbing, is a useful and necessary source to expose the impunity of General Dyer’s so-called ‘Dyerarchy’. 

As students at Liverpool University, the Twins were subject to the prejudices of a myopically Western arts education, with tutors often denying the influence of non-European art on Western works, or claiming that Indian art was ‘backward and outdated’. Slaves of Fashion explodes the narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art history. With their art now adorning everything from album covers to academic literature - as well as being the subject of an excellent solo exhibition - the Twins’ stunning and vivid works are themselves the strongest evidence against these outdated stereotypes.

The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion is on view at Firstsite Colchester until 11 September 2022.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/08/2022
To Do
Jelena Sofronijevic
Last Chance to See: Slaves of Fashion at Firstsite, Colchester
Make sure to visit this vibrant, urgent exhibition by the Singh Twins before it closes on 11th September

The Singh Twins are artists of plurality: the contemporary Indian miniatures for which they are best known invite as much comparison to pre-Raphaelite draughtsmanship as they do colonial engravings, or corporate branding. Using visual art as a means of storytelling, their work explores histories of empire and slavery and their subsequent impact on contemporary conflict and consumerism. Their sensitive exploration of these narratives, in which each detail is given consideration, places them solidly among Britain’s most eloquent contemporary artists.

Slaves of Fashion, the Singh Twins’ most recent exhibition, is no exception to their meticulous art practice: they have thought of everything. The exhibition focuses on the Indian textile industry, and the economic and cultural appropriation which caused its demise. Life-sized symbolic portraits-as-lightboxes dominate the exhibition, but peppering the spaces in between are a series of lustrously textured, gold-dusted paintings which are just as worthy of display. Accompanying these final artworks are a wealth of preparatory paintings and original source materials which document their own painstaking research and creative process.

Coromandel: Sugar and Spice, Not So Nice (2017)

From black and white engravings to vivid portraits, The Singh Twins colourise – and shade – oversimplified histories. Slaves of Fashion hints at the multi-directional cultural flows of art in empires. One of their sources is William Kilburn, an eighteenth-century textile designer. Though his own work was heavily appropriative of Indian chintz, he nevertheless presumed to lobby Parliament for protection against plagiarism of his floral patterns. 

Like the artworks themselves, the exhibition is dense, with extended captions reaching up to three pages per portrait. There are also short films, interviews, and poems penned in response to their works, (much of it warmly tributed to their former collaborator, University of Liverpool Professor Kate Marsh). Though the wealth of information can appear daunting, it improves accessibility and allows visitors to engage more thoroughly with their own histories.

Trade Wars (2017)

The Singh Twins’ artwork highlights continuities across time and geography; in Trade Wars (2017), the Elizabethan scramble for spices is likened with supermarket price wars., while Eating Off the Same Plate (2017) recasts a century cartoon of the Napoleonic Wars, criticising India’s elites for adapting the same neocolonial and corporate tactics which were also used to carve up Africa. There’s nothing subtle in their handling of contemporary politics. Small paintings offer scathing critiques of Theresa May, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, and George Bush alike. The devil is in the smallest details, such as the stars and stripes swapped for dollar signs in Partition Politics (2017), or the photographs of Iraqi bombings that border Partners in Crime (2005).

Partition Politics: Business as Usual (2007)

Whether Caribbean hardwood or Haitian sugar, Slaves of Fashion nods to other empires, highlighting inter-imperial networks, with repeated visual patterns representing recurring themes in colonial history. Coromandel (2017), a portrait of the Dutch East India Company in Pulicat, adopts the architectural map of the imperial fort as its border, while Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave floods the corner, a reference to the Company’s presence in Japan. 

Scales weigh up the ‘blue gold’ of indigo against Black enslaved people; both were traded in weight, emphasising dehumanising reduction of people to mere commodities to be bought and sold. Other works reverse racial stereotypes, highlighting the white pirates involved in calico textile trading. A Fitzgeraldian figure advertises how muslin was appropriated by wealthy women after the French Revolution, who risked the guillotine for wearing heavy, indulgent fabrics. The work also alludes to the trend adopted by white European women of wearing flesh-toned underwear beneath their transparent dresses, deliberarately suggestive of India’s hot, sexual atmosphere.

Muslin: The Fabric of Revolt (2017)

The Singh Twins prioritise representing people otherwise omitted from elite historical narratives. Portraits nod to the shawl-clad poor of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and labour exploitation in Manchester’s textile mills. These images bring the empire home to its source, and encourage us to think creatively about how violence here is part of wider systems of oppression worldwide. There’s reconciliation to be found in these complex truths; for instance, ‘unpatriotic’ British women risked physical attack, or being stripped at point, for wearing calico. By showing the popularity of Indian and imperial goods, the Twins suggest that responsibility lies more with political and economic elites, rather than the British public.

Symbols associated with Ancient Egypt and China show India’s international connections both before and beyond Britain. Whilst exploring these shared connections, the Twins’ Indo-British histories naturally put India first. With an underdeveloped textile industry that was characterised by cheap and low quality mass production, we are shown that it was Britain who was dependent on trade within the empire and its colonies rather than vice versa. 

The Singh Twins remind us that Britain did all it could to suppress India’s economic self-determination; under British rule popular muslins and Kashmiri shawls were banned or imitated, and chintz was seized at customs as the British government enforced imports to smother India’s flourishing textile industry. In one piece, a single bleeding finger commemorates those hundreds of Bengali weavers violently punished during this period.

Preparatory painting of a ‘Calico Madam’ being beaten by a silk weaver (2017)

The abundance of quotes spread throughout the exhibition, sourced from philosophers to political reports, highlight how these horrors were well-known and challenged at the time. Among the most harrowing of works on view is the triptych depicting the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an ironic use of religious art to highlight the most ungodly violence. In the accompanying documentary, the Twins debate the ethics and exploitative potential of using the original photographs of Sikhs flogged in the streets during the massacre. They ultimately conclude such material, while deeply disturbing, is a useful and necessary source to expose the impunity of General Dyer’s so-called ‘Dyerarchy’. 

As students at Liverpool University, the Twins were subject to the prejudices of a myopically Western arts education, with tutors often denying the influence of non-European art on Western works, or claiming that Indian art was ‘backward and outdated’. Slaves of Fashion explodes the narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art history. With their art now adorning everything from album covers to academic literature - as well as being the subject of an excellent solo exhibition - the Twins’ stunning and vivid works are themselves the strongest evidence against these outdated stereotypes.

The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion is on view at Firstsite Colchester until 11 September 2022.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/08/2022
To Do
Jelena Sofronijevic
Last Chance to See: Slaves of Fashion at Firstsite, Colchester
Make sure to visit this vibrant, urgent exhibition by the Singh Twins before it closes on 11th September

The Singh Twins are artists of plurality: the contemporary Indian miniatures for which they are best known invite as much comparison to pre-Raphaelite draughtsmanship as they do colonial engravings, or corporate branding. Using visual art as a means of storytelling, their work explores histories of empire and slavery and their subsequent impact on contemporary conflict and consumerism. Their sensitive exploration of these narratives, in which each detail is given consideration, places them solidly among Britain’s most eloquent contemporary artists.

Slaves of Fashion, the Singh Twins’ most recent exhibition, is no exception to their meticulous art practice: they have thought of everything. The exhibition focuses on the Indian textile industry, and the economic and cultural appropriation which caused its demise. Life-sized symbolic portraits-as-lightboxes dominate the exhibition, but peppering the spaces in between are a series of lustrously textured, gold-dusted paintings which are just as worthy of display. Accompanying these final artworks are a wealth of preparatory paintings and original source materials which document their own painstaking research and creative process.

Coromandel: Sugar and Spice, Not So Nice (2017)

From black and white engravings to vivid portraits, The Singh Twins colourise – and shade – oversimplified histories. Slaves of Fashion hints at the multi-directional cultural flows of art in empires. One of their sources is William Kilburn, an eighteenth-century textile designer. Though his own work was heavily appropriative of Indian chintz, he nevertheless presumed to lobby Parliament for protection against plagiarism of his floral patterns. 

Like the artworks themselves, the exhibition is dense, with extended captions reaching up to three pages per portrait. There are also short films, interviews, and poems penned in response to their works, (much of it warmly tributed to their former collaborator, University of Liverpool Professor Kate Marsh). Though the wealth of information can appear daunting, it improves accessibility and allows visitors to engage more thoroughly with their own histories.

Trade Wars (2017)

The Singh Twins’ artwork highlights continuities across time and geography; in Trade Wars (2017), the Elizabethan scramble for spices is likened with supermarket price wars., while Eating Off the Same Plate (2017) recasts a century cartoon of the Napoleonic Wars, criticising India’s elites for adapting the same neocolonial and corporate tactics which were also used to carve up Africa. There’s nothing subtle in their handling of contemporary politics. Small paintings offer scathing critiques of Theresa May, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, and George Bush alike. The devil is in the smallest details, such as the stars and stripes swapped for dollar signs in Partition Politics (2017), or the photographs of Iraqi bombings that border Partners in Crime (2005).

Partition Politics: Business as Usual (2007)

Whether Caribbean hardwood or Haitian sugar, Slaves of Fashion nods to other empires, highlighting inter-imperial networks, with repeated visual patterns representing recurring themes in colonial history. Coromandel (2017), a portrait of the Dutch East India Company in Pulicat, adopts the architectural map of the imperial fort as its border, while Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave floods the corner, a reference to the Company’s presence in Japan. 

Scales weigh up the ‘blue gold’ of indigo against Black enslaved people; both were traded in weight, emphasising dehumanising reduction of people to mere commodities to be bought and sold. Other works reverse racial stereotypes, highlighting the white pirates involved in calico textile trading. A Fitzgeraldian figure advertises how muslin was appropriated by wealthy women after the French Revolution, who risked the guillotine for wearing heavy, indulgent fabrics. The work also alludes to the trend adopted by white European women of wearing flesh-toned underwear beneath their transparent dresses, deliberarately suggestive of India’s hot, sexual atmosphere.

Muslin: The Fabric of Revolt (2017)

The Singh Twins prioritise representing people otherwise omitted from elite historical narratives. Portraits nod to the shawl-clad poor of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and labour exploitation in Manchester’s textile mills. These images bring the empire home to its source, and encourage us to think creatively about how violence here is part of wider systems of oppression worldwide. There’s reconciliation to be found in these complex truths; for instance, ‘unpatriotic’ British women risked physical attack, or being stripped at point, for wearing calico. By showing the popularity of Indian and imperial goods, the Twins suggest that responsibility lies more with political and economic elites, rather than the British public.

Symbols associated with Ancient Egypt and China show India’s international connections both before and beyond Britain. Whilst exploring these shared connections, the Twins’ Indo-British histories naturally put India first. With an underdeveloped textile industry that was characterised by cheap and low quality mass production, we are shown that it was Britain who was dependent on trade within the empire and its colonies rather than vice versa. 

The Singh Twins remind us that Britain did all it could to suppress India’s economic self-determination; under British rule popular muslins and Kashmiri shawls were banned or imitated, and chintz was seized at customs as the British government enforced imports to smother India’s flourishing textile industry. In one piece, a single bleeding finger commemorates those hundreds of Bengali weavers violently punished during this period.

Preparatory painting of a ‘Calico Madam’ being beaten by a silk weaver (2017)

The abundance of quotes spread throughout the exhibition, sourced from philosophers to political reports, highlight how these horrors were well-known and challenged at the time. Among the most harrowing of works on view is the triptych depicting the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an ironic use of religious art to highlight the most ungodly violence. In the accompanying documentary, the Twins debate the ethics and exploitative potential of using the original photographs of Sikhs flogged in the streets during the massacre. They ultimately conclude such material, while deeply disturbing, is a useful and necessary source to expose the impunity of General Dyer’s so-called ‘Dyerarchy’. 

As students at Liverpool University, the Twins were subject to the prejudices of a myopically Western arts education, with tutors often denying the influence of non-European art on Western works, or claiming that Indian art was ‘backward and outdated’. Slaves of Fashion explodes the narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art history. With their art now adorning everything from album covers to academic literature - as well as being the subject of an excellent solo exhibition - the Twins’ stunning and vivid works are themselves the strongest evidence against these outdated stereotypes.

The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion is on view at Firstsite Colchester until 11 September 2022.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/08/2022
To Do
Jelena Sofronijevic
Last Chance to See: Slaves of Fashion at Firstsite, Colchester
Make sure to visit this vibrant, urgent exhibition by the Singh Twins before it closes on 11th September

The Singh Twins are artists of plurality: the contemporary Indian miniatures for which they are best known invite as much comparison to pre-Raphaelite draughtsmanship as they do colonial engravings, or corporate branding. Using visual art as a means of storytelling, their work explores histories of empire and slavery and their subsequent impact on contemporary conflict and consumerism. Their sensitive exploration of these narratives, in which each detail is given consideration, places them solidly among Britain’s most eloquent contemporary artists.

Slaves of Fashion, the Singh Twins’ most recent exhibition, is no exception to their meticulous art practice: they have thought of everything. The exhibition focuses on the Indian textile industry, and the economic and cultural appropriation which caused its demise. Life-sized symbolic portraits-as-lightboxes dominate the exhibition, but peppering the spaces in between are a series of lustrously textured, gold-dusted paintings which are just as worthy of display. Accompanying these final artworks are a wealth of preparatory paintings and original source materials which document their own painstaking research and creative process.

Coromandel: Sugar and Spice, Not So Nice (2017)

From black and white engravings to vivid portraits, The Singh Twins colourise – and shade – oversimplified histories. Slaves of Fashion hints at the multi-directional cultural flows of art in empires. One of their sources is William Kilburn, an eighteenth-century textile designer. Though his own work was heavily appropriative of Indian chintz, he nevertheless presumed to lobby Parliament for protection against plagiarism of his floral patterns. 

Like the artworks themselves, the exhibition is dense, with extended captions reaching up to three pages per portrait. There are also short films, interviews, and poems penned in response to their works, (much of it warmly tributed to their former collaborator, University of Liverpool Professor Kate Marsh). Though the wealth of information can appear daunting, it improves accessibility and allows visitors to engage more thoroughly with their own histories.

Trade Wars (2017)

The Singh Twins’ artwork highlights continuities across time and geography; in Trade Wars (2017), the Elizabethan scramble for spices is likened with supermarket price wars., while Eating Off the Same Plate (2017) recasts a century cartoon of the Napoleonic Wars, criticising India’s elites for adapting the same neocolonial and corporate tactics which were also used to carve up Africa. There’s nothing subtle in their handling of contemporary politics. Small paintings offer scathing critiques of Theresa May, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, and George Bush alike. The devil is in the smallest details, such as the stars and stripes swapped for dollar signs in Partition Politics (2017), or the photographs of Iraqi bombings that border Partners in Crime (2005).

Partition Politics: Business as Usual (2007)

Whether Caribbean hardwood or Haitian sugar, Slaves of Fashion nods to other empires, highlighting inter-imperial networks, with repeated visual patterns representing recurring themes in colonial history. Coromandel (2017), a portrait of the Dutch East India Company in Pulicat, adopts the architectural map of the imperial fort as its border, while Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave floods the corner, a reference to the Company’s presence in Japan. 

Scales weigh up the ‘blue gold’ of indigo against Black enslaved people; both were traded in weight, emphasising dehumanising reduction of people to mere commodities to be bought and sold. Other works reverse racial stereotypes, highlighting the white pirates involved in calico textile trading. A Fitzgeraldian figure advertises how muslin was appropriated by wealthy women after the French Revolution, who risked the guillotine for wearing heavy, indulgent fabrics. The work also alludes to the trend adopted by white European women of wearing flesh-toned underwear beneath their transparent dresses, deliberarately suggestive of India’s hot, sexual atmosphere.

Muslin: The Fabric of Revolt (2017)

The Singh Twins prioritise representing people otherwise omitted from elite historical narratives. Portraits nod to the shawl-clad poor of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and labour exploitation in Manchester’s textile mills. These images bring the empire home to its source, and encourage us to think creatively about how violence here is part of wider systems of oppression worldwide. There’s reconciliation to be found in these complex truths; for instance, ‘unpatriotic’ British women risked physical attack, or being stripped at point, for wearing calico. By showing the popularity of Indian and imperial goods, the Twins suggest that responsibility lies more with political and economic elites, rather than the British public.

Symbols associated with Ancient Egypt and China show India’s international connections both before and beyond Britain. Whilst exploring these shared connections, the Twins’ Indo-British histories naturally put India first. With an underdeveloped textile industry that was characterised by cheap and low quality mass production, we are shown that it was Britain who was dependent on trade within the empire and its colonies rather than vice versa. 

The Singh Twins remind us that Britain did all it could to suppress India’s economic self-determination; under British rule popular muslins and Kashmiri shawls were banned or imitated, and chintz was seized at customs as the British government enforced imports to smother India’s flourishing textile industry. In one piece, a single bleeding finger commemorates those hundreds of Bengali weavers violently punished during this period.

Preparatory painting of a ‘Calico Madam’ being beaten by a silk weaver (2017)

The abundance of quotes spread throughout the exhibition, sourced from philosophers to political reports, highlight how these horrors were well-known and challenged at the time. Among the most harrowing of works on view is the triptych depicting the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an ironic use of religious art to highlight the most ungodly violence. In the accompanying documentary, the Twins debate the ethics and exploitative potential of using the original photographs of Sikhs flogged in the streets during the massacre. They ultimately conclude such material, while deeply disturbing, is a useful and necessary source to expose the impunity of General Dyer’s so-called ‘Dyerarchy’. 

As students at Liverpool University, the Twins were subject to the prejudices of a myopically Western arts education, with tutors often denying the influence of non-European art on Western works, or claiming that Indian art was ‘backward and outdated’. Slaves of Fashion explodes the narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art history. With their art now adorning everything from album covers to academic literature - as well as being the subject of an excellent solo exhibition - the Twins’ stunning and vivid works are themselves the strongest evidence against these outdated stereotypes.

The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion is on view at Firstsite Colchester until 11 September 2022.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
26/08/2022
To Do
Jelena Sofronijevic
Last Chance to See: Slaves of Fashion at Firstsite, Colchester
Make sure to visit this vibrant, urgent exhibition by the Singh Twins before it closes on 11th September

The Singh Twins are artists of plurality: the contemporary Indian miniatures for which they are best known invite as much comparison to pre-Raphaelite draughtsmanship as they do colonial engravings, or corporate branding. Using visual art as a means of storytelling, their work explores histories of empire and slavery and their subsequent impact on contemporary conflict and consumerism. Their sensitive exploration of these narratives, in which each detail is given consideration, places them solidly among Britain’s most eloquent contemporary artists.

Slaves of Fashion, the Singh Twins’ most recent exhibition, is no exception to their meticulous art practice: they have thought of everything. The exhibition focuses on the Indian textile industry, and the economic and cultural appropriation which caused its demise. Life-sized symbolic portraits-as-lightboxes dominate the exhibition, but peppering the spaces in between are a series of lustrously textured, gold-dusted paintings which are just as worthy of display. Accompanying these final artworks are a wealth of preparatory paintings and original source materials which document their own painstaking research and creative process.

Coromandel: Sugar and Spice, Not So Nice (2017)

From black and white engravings to vivid portraits, The Singh Twins colourise – and shade – oversimplified histories. Slaves of Fashion hints at the multi-directional cultural flows of art in empires. One of their sources is William Kilburn, an eighteenth-century textile designer. Though his own work was heavily appropriative of Indian chintz, he nevertheless presumed to lobby Parliament for protection against plagiarism of his floral patterns. 

Like the artworks themselves, the exhibition is dense, with extended captions reaching up to three pages per portrait. There are also short films, interviews, and poems penned in response to their works, (much of it warmly tributed to their former collaborator, University of Liverpool Professor Kate Marsh). Though the wealth of information can appear daunting, it improves accessibility and allows visitors to engage more thoroughly with their own histories.

Trade Wars (2017)

The Singh Twins’ artwork highlights continuities across time and geography; in Trade Wars (2017), the Elizabethan scramble for spices is likened with supermarket price wars., while Eating Off the Same Plate (2017) recasts a century cartoon of the Napoleonic Wars, criticising India’s elites for adapting the same neocolonial and corporate tactics which were also used to carve up Africa. There’s nothing subtle in their handling of contemporary politics. Small paintings offer scathing critiques of Theresa May, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, and George Bush alike. The devil is in the smallest details, such as the stars and stripes swapped for dollar signs in Partition Politics (2017), or the photographs of Iraqi bombings that border Partners in Crime (2005).

Partition Politics: Business as Usual (2007)

Whether Caribbean hardwood or Haitian sugar, Slaves of Fashion nods to other empires, highlighting inter-imperial networks, with repeated visual patterns representing recurring themes in colonial history. Coromandel (2017), a portrait of the Dutch East India Company in Pulicat, adopts the architectural map of the imperial fort as its border, while Hokusai’s iconic Great Wave floods the corner, a reference to the Company’s presence in Japan. 

Scales weigh up the ‘blue gold’ of indigo against Black enslaved people; both were traded in weight, emphasising dehumanising reduction of people to mere commodities to be bought and sold. Other works reverse racial stereotypes, highlighting the white pirates involved in calico textile trading. A Fitzgeraldian figure advertises how muslin was appropriated by wealthy women after the French Revolution, who risked the guillotine for wearing heavy, indulgent fabrics. The work also alludes to the trend adopted by white European women of wearing flesh-toned underwear beneath their transparent dresses, deliberarately suggestive of India’s hot, sexual atmosphere.

Muslin: The Fabric of Revolt (2017)

The Singh Twins prioritise representing people otherwise omitted from elite historical narratives. Portraits nod to the shawl-clad poor of Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and labour exploitation in Manchester’s textile mills. These images bring the empire home to its source, and encourage us to think creatively about how violence here is part of wider systems of oppression worldwide. There’s reconciliation to be found in these complex truths; for instance, ‘unpatriotic’ British women risked physical attack, or being stripped at point, for wearing calico. By showing the popularity of Indian and imperial goods, the Twins suggest that responsibility lies more with political and economic elites, rather than the British public.

Symbols associated with Ancient Egypt and China show India’s international connections both before and beyond Britain. Whilst exploring these shared connections, the Twins’ Indo-British histories naturally put India first. With an underdeveloped textile industry that was characterised by cheap and low quality mass production, we are shown that it was Britain who was dependent on trade within the empire and its colonies rather than vice versa. 

The Singh Twins remind us that Britain did all it could to suppress India’s economic self-determination; under British rule popular muslins and Kashmiri shawls were banned or imitated, and chintz was seized at customs as the British government enforced imports to smother India’s flourishing textile industry. In one piece, a single bleeding finger commemorates those hundreds of Bengali weavers violently punished during this period.

Preparatory painting of a ‘Calico Madam’ being beaten by a silk weaver (2017)

The abundance of quotes spread throughout the exhibition, sourced from philosophers to political reports, highlight how these horrors were well-known and challenged at the time. Among the most harrowing of works on view is the triptych depicting the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, an ironic use of religious art to highlight the most ungodly violence. In the accompanying documentary, the Twins debate the ethics and exploitative potential of using the original photographs of Sikhs flogged in the streets during the massacre. They ultimately conclude such material, while deeply disturbing, is a useful and necessary source to expose the impunity of General Dyer’s so-called ‘Dyerarchy’. 

As students at Liverpool University, the Twins were subject to the prejudices of a myopically Western arts education, with tutors often denying the influence of non-European art on Western works, or claiming that Indian art was ‘backward and outdated’. Slaves of Fashion explodes the narrow Eurocentric perceptions of art history. With their art now adorning everything from album covers to academic literature - as well as being the subject of an excellent solo exhibition - the Twins’ stunning and vivid works are themselves the strongest evidence against these outdated stereotypes.

The Singh Twins: Slaves of Fashion is on view at Firstsite Colchester until 11 September 2022.

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
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